Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
Government has stepped up efforts to address electricity challenges obtaining in the country, but signalled that collective efforts are required for a long-lasting solution.
Addressing a press conference on the 21st Cabinet Meeting Decision matrix yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the long hours of load shedding being experienced by domestic and some commercial consumers of power were a concern to Government.
She said Cabinet had received a status report on the electricity situation from Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi.
“The report showed that the fuel supply situation remained fairly stable,” she said.
“Concern was, however, expressed over the long duration of electricity power supply load shedding schedules, which was hurting both domestic and business consumers. Government has stepped up efforts to service its power imports debt arrears so as to ensure continued power supplies.
“As part of demand-side management measures, Government ministries and Government agencies should install meters to help them to closely monitor their power usage. All local authorities and other consumers are called upon to settle their bills with Zesa so as to improve the power utility’s viability.”
Minister Chasi said the issue required all Zimbabweans to work together to resolve the matter through paying their bills to ensure Zesa operated viably.
He said there was need for stakeholders to discuss the tariff charged by Zesa because the current rates were now below market rates.
Zesa owes Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique and Eskom of South Africa US$83 million.
Zimbabwe is getting about 50MW from the two suppliers, but this could be increased to 450MW once the arrears are cleared.
“We must make the necessary noises to ensure that the entity is viable,” said Minister Chasi.
“It’s a responsibility for everyone, we need to work together to sort this out because if we don’t, we will only shut ourselves down and to try and restart the formula will be difficult.
“Zesa, in spite of the numerous demands and complaints that we make as users of power, are owed $1,2 billion by local consumers.”
The mining sector, which gobbles most of the power, owes Zesa $200 million, local authorities ($300 million) and domestic consumers up to $400 million.
“I think the generality of the public owes something between $350 and $400 million, and that includes you and me; that includes people in Zanu-PF and in MDC, so the issue we have at hand doesn’t need us to engage in political banter,” said Minister Chasi.
“So the bottom line is when you consume a service you must pay and as a country, we must never allow ourselves to get into this situation (again). This has nothing to do with who you are. We can play games around this issue, but if there is an issue that needs us to be together as a country, it’s power. That’s why it’s called power.”
Minister Chasi said he engaged Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, who indicated that $20 million would be paid to Zesa.
He said while the figure was significant, “it’s still a drop in the ocean”, judging by what was required.